The Woman Behind the Strategy

You may be familiar with Chelsea if you’ve made any of her recipes that we’ve featured. Most recently: Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta with Crispy Sage, or Roasted Fall Squash and Tomato Pie. These are just a few from The Naked Fig blog which focuses on simple recipes, minimalism, and design.

Chelsea “accidentally” became a food blogger about 5 years ago. Trying to understand some out-of-the-ordinary health problems, she turned to elimination dieting to shed some light on her situation. It was through this journey that she learned how to use ingredients differently and how to cook healthier, using foods she never had before.

Chelsea, Creator of The Naked Fig Blog

Before you get too intimidated, Chelsea is super encouraging about the progress she’s made on her journey, and that you don’t have to go to culinary school to be clever with your meal prep. In fact, while Chelsea creates her own recipes for her blog, she’s doesn’t consider herself a chef, or really even a cook. “Even as far as cooks go, I can get by, but I’m not an extraordinary cook. I have no training, I’m just a picky eater, so I’ve had to prepare my food frequently”. But the skill set she knocks out of the park is “how to work with what you have, and how to make your kitchen work for you”.

Today, we’ll focus specifically on how meal planning fits into that. But in addition to that, Chelsea is extremely passionate about kitchen organization and admittedly rearranges the shelves in her fridge weekly, “If you keep your fridge in a way that’s beautiful, it’s amazing how inspired you can be.”

8 (Free) Steps To a Beautiful Fridge

The Idea Behind the strategy

While a lot of her blog’s focus revolves around meals, storage and organization, she doesn’t spend as much time planning as you’d expect. Instead, Chelsea keeps her staples stocked in the freezer and the pantry, and plans her meals based on what’s fresh.

Yes, you’re reading right. She plans not to plan. Chelsea explains, “I tend to lean away from traditional meal planning because I don’t know what I’m going to want at any given moment, and I would hate to eat something just because I had previously decided I was going to eat something.” So, the way around it? She keeps a stocked freezer and pantry, and then gets inspiration based on what looks beautiful in her fridge .

The Execution in 4 Simple Steps:

1. Figure out your preferred staples and keep these stocked

My first thought was quinoa, rice, and meat. And while those are great, Chelsea encouraged me to think even more outside the box, “I do a lot of rice, noodles, and spring roll wraps. I usually have some canned artichoke hearts or frozen peas or soybeans so that have a few veggie options also that I can throw in.” Among her favorite staples: Banner Butter and Sweet Grass Dairy. It’s amazing what some good quality butter, salt and pepper will do for some good quality vegetables!

2. Customize your basket based on what speaks to you in the moment

Chelsea says one of the most key moments in her planning is customizing her basket, “When I get the Wednesday email I always customize my basket so that I make sure it has ingredients that I’ll actually use.” While she doesn’t sit down and plan the meals at that moment, she will begin to ruminate on the ingredients she knows are coming to get a few ideas of what might sound good.

3. Plan one meal at a time based on your fresh basket ingredients, starting with items that have the shortest shelf life

Chelsea has found that focusing first on the items that have the shortest shelf life simplifies the whole process for her. Using up sensitive greens in the first few days they arrive can both simplify your decision-making process and ensure they don’t go bad before you get to them. 

4. Combine staples and fresh ingredients with a go-to sauce

Chelsea attributes having a go-to sauce as one of the keys to success for this strategy. She explains, “I think people feel like they need to learn a whole new recipe and sauce with every ingredient. And while you certainly can if you want to, you can find your go-to and just tweak it”. Once someone knows their go-to is a mandarin soy, for example, they’ve found their niche and can put that with any vegetable combination, as a stir-fry or roast. Just add in the stocked staples and you have yourself a meal. 

While you may not be in the habit of creating your own recipes, you can still get inspiration from other sources. Visit our recipe bank (or your go-to recipe spot) and search based on your chosen produce ingredient. You might be surprised how creative you may get when you decide to substitute an ingredient here and there. 

Who will rock this strategy?

Do you struggle planning out your meals a week in advance?
Do you thrive at last minute planning and execution?
Do you dislike batch cooking and eating the same thing for weeks on end?

There are some of you out there, like my mother, who set the menu for the following week all at once, do the grocery shopping all at once, and cook a separate (amazing) meal every night. If that is you, this approach is probably not for you. Because, well, you’ve kind of got it down. But for those of you more like me who like to have different meals frequently (i.e. not the same pot of chili four days in a row), but can’t quite get it together a week ahead of time, this is for you! According to Chelsea, one way to think about this strategy is like “the European way – inspired by the people who buy their bread every day from their local baker”.

What’s Next?

For those of you moved by this strategy, here are some next steps for you!

  1. Brainstorm a list of your go to staples: meat, vegan protein, grains and beans, pasta, sauces, and accessories that keep well like butter, spices, etc. and stock up! You can even add these on a recurring basis so you don’t have to think about it.
  2. Customize your basket when you get the Wednesday Harvest Email, and start ruminating on what type of meals sound good (NOTE: Ruminating does not equal planning. 😉 )
  3. If you get stuck, go to our recipe bank and filter by produce ingredient for inspiration.
  4. Grab some bread, baked fresh daily from your local baker

Hopefully you gleaned some inspiration from Chelsea’s thoughtful methods. If you liked this post, check out our other Meal Prep Method posts, including being a busy traveling professional, a community building method, and employing a low waste strategy! In the meantime, go stock your pantry and as they say in everyday meal planning land, Bon appétit!

P.S. If you have recipes you love, send them to and we’ll add them to the recipe bank!

P.P.S. Not only is she a great designer, organizer, cook, recipe creator, but also photographer! All photos on this post are courtesy of Chelsea via The Naked Fig Blog.